Racing

Gear Failures Mar Challenger Series Finals

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The Louis Vuitton Cup finals is beginning to look like a race of the pit crews as Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand have both been experiencing a spate of race-ending mechanical failures.

In fact, thus far there has not been a single race in which both teams have made it to the finish line.

First, there was a breakdown in Luna Rossa’s daggerboard shortly after the start of the first race of the finals series on Saturday.

Then it was ETNZ’s turn on Sunday as the boat’s hydraulics went down midway through Race 2 leaving the boat helpless.

After that it was Luna Rossa’s turn again, as the wing-control system failed, in part thanks to a snafu at the leeward mark.

In another disturbing trend, the race committee has only been able to get off a single, shortened five-leg race per day, as opposed to the two races originally scheduled to take place, as afternoon winds have gone above the 19.4 knot wind limit established in the wake of the fatal Artemis capsize last spring.

Unfortunately, this is yet another area in which the 34th America’s Cup cycle has come up short. Larry Ellison, Russell Coutts and company had originally designed the regatta so that it would be able to proceed in a wide range of weather conditions, in the interest of engaging a mass non-sailing audience. But the new wind limits make that difficult given the blustery afternoon conditions on San Francisco Bay.

Emirates currently leads the series, 2-1.

The fact that Luna Rossa had to drop out midway through Race 3 was all the more frustrating, because it looked like spectators had a real sailboat race on their hands. Not only did Luna Rossa win the start, but both boats seemed to be moving well, and ETNZ had to give it everything they had to pass their Italian rivals by mere seconds at the first bear-away.

After that it was drag race on the first downwind leg, with ETNZ only managing to open up a 100-meter lead when Luna Rossa dropped back onto its hulls for a few seconds during a sloppy gybe.

Then came the mix up at the leeward mark.

“Unfortunately, we had an issue on the control line controlling the twist profile of the wing and couldn’t keep sailing,” said Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena. “The line controls the twist profile of the wing. It comes down to the base of the wing and wraps around sheaves. The sheaves moved and caused the problem with the tension of the control line. Fortunately it’s a quick fix, but unfortunately it stopped us racing.”

“We had what felt like a yacht race at the start. They did a nice job in the start,” said ETNZ helmsman Dean Barker. “The guys worked hard across that first reach, and we just held our inside line. Luna Rossa had one [hull] touch down right before the mark that got us through. We didn’t execute our first jibe as well as would’ve liked, but the guys got back into the swing very quickly.”

Races 4 and 5 of the Louis Vuitton Finals are scheduled to take place the afternoon of Wednesday August 21. Let’s hope the boats and wind cooperate a bit better than they have past few days.

To see all of Race 3, click here.

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